Team Canada is about to make their return to the FIVB World League after a five-year absence. The Canadians are in Pool B alongside Brazil, Poland, and Finland. This past weekend, both the Brazilian and Polish leagues have concluded, meaning our opponents will start their preparation for this year's World League Tournament. Brazil and Poland were the silver and bronze medallists (respectively) last year.
The Brazilian league (called Superliga) ended on Saturday. Brazil has been dominating indoor volleyball since 2001 remaining as number one on The FIVB World Rankings despite the Russian victory at 2011 World Cup, the latest major tournament. With the end of Superliga, coach Bernardo Rezende will call the players for World League and the Olympics (Brazil is the only country that hasn’t sent their roster to FIVB so far). In the final match, Cruzeiro won the title for the first time defeating Volei Futuro 3-1. Both teams are led by their setters. Cruzeiro’s is William Arjona, nicknamed “el mago” during the years he played in Argentina and chosen Superliga MVP. On Volei Futuro side, Ricardo Garcia, considered by many the best setter ever. Arjona won this time. You can check the match highlights. Some of these players may be seen on Rezende’s list.
The Polish league, called PlusLiga, is also over. Asseco Resovia won the playoffs 3-1 in the best of five series against Skra Belchatow. As the reigning Polish champion and runner-up in the last Champions League (main European club tournament), Skra was the favourite but lost to Resovia, a team that has on the German opposite Georg Grozer as their main weapon. Skra has a star-studded roster, with some of the main names of Polish volleyball like Bartosz Kurek, Michal Winiarski, and Mariusz Wlazly.
Although not facing Canada in pool play, the Italians are a team to keep an eye on. They have one of the strongest teams in the world. Italy was the runner-up in the last European Championships and finished in fourth place at the 2011 World Cup. The Italian league (one of the more prominent leagues in the world) ended on Sunday. Macerata surprised favourite and defending champions Trentino in a five-set thriller. Trentino, home of Canadian middle blocker Steve Brinkman, opened 2-0 in sets but Macerata didn’t give up. Macerata saved three match points in tie-break before closing the match 22-20, after Bulgarian star and Trentino veteran Matey Kaziyski hit out of bounds. The Italian league consists of volleyball players from several countries. Now that it has come to an end, these players can now join their national teams. Italy is in pool C, with USA, France and Korea. Check out the tie-break of Macerata vs. Trentino.
Sunday was also the final for Bundesliga, the German national championship. Germany doesn’t have one of the strongest teams, but they are rising in the international scene having qualified for the last Olympics and placing in top eight in the last worlds. In the fifth and last match of playoff series, Berlin beat Haching in five sets. Tie-break was intense, with Haching wasting two match points and losing 14-16, after leading 14-12. Berlin was responsible for defeating favourite Friedrichshafen in the semifinal. The good news for German volleyball fans was the packed gyms in semi and final playoffs. Germany will be in pool D of 2012 World League and will play Bulgaria, Portugal and Argentina.
World League enters its 23rd year. Established in 1990, WL is the premier annual men’s international volleyball tournament. This year's competition is set to take place from May 18 to July 1 across 16 countries, with each week featuring four pools in four cities in a round-robin format. The finals will take place in Sofia, Bulgaria from July 4 to 8 with six teams. The six teams are made up of the host, the four pool winners and the best second place. Canada’s leg will be held in Toronto from May 18 to 20, at RicoH Coliseum. Toronto will also host the Canadian Open Championships on the same weekend. Already slated as the largest volleyball event in Canadian history, it is expected to attract over 10,000 players, coaches and officials from across the country with national titles in various age groups on the line for men and women. It will definitely be a great time for Canadian volleyball.
Brazil's head coach, Bernardo Rezende, has finally released the preliminary roster for the World League: